Wednesday, April 25, 2007

When a pregnancy threatens a mother's life

Cerberus linked to a post from Disgusted Beyond Belief (crossposted at Bread n Roses/Birth Pangs) and his tragic situation, where his pregnant wife was hemorhagging profusely and he chose to have her undergo an abortion. I first saw this story at Jivin' Jehoshaphat, where I gave my thoughts, and I assume DBB read them, as he has been posting there.

There is a misperception among many people that pro-lifers do not believe that any kind of intervention is allowable when a pregnant mother's life is at stake. This perception comes from a difference of definition on the word "abortion".

According to the theory of double of effect, it would be permissible to intervene to save the woman's life. However, the action taken must be morally neutral or morally good, not morally evil.

To induce labour is not of itself morally evil. It would have been licit to save the mother's life with an induction of labour. However, the problem with the procedure in question was that it was a suction aspiration abortion (judging by the description) and this kind of abortion mutilates and destroys the unborn child.

Pro-lifers, in essence, would agree on what should be done in a life-threatening situation-- save the mother-- the difference lies in the how. A procedure that does not have at its object the death of the unborn child is not considered an abortion, amongst pro-lifers, at least among Catholic pro-lifers.

Cerberus wrongly claims that in the purview of pro-lifers, a doctor would go to jail for trying to save the mother.

That is not true.

Rather, the pro-life approach would be a procedure that respects both mother and child, knowing that it would probably result, unintentionally, in the child's death.

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